RSVP Center holds presentation on the new realities of social media stalking

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 7.5 million people are stalked in one year in the US.

Without the Internet, one had to be in physical proximity to someone to stalk them. Now, with technology, stalking has become a danger to people even when they’re miles away.

Student Life Web Development Coordinator Sara Rubenstein gave a presentation on the dangers of stalking and social media for National Stalking Awareness Month on Jan. 28 in the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center.

“Technology has made stalking easier,” Rubenstein said. “Now there is a plethora of information out there where someone can get a lot of context about you, and be in a different country.”

There is no anonymity by obscurity anymore, Rubenstein said. Not only can an individual’s information be found, but it is common for people over the Internet to pretend to be someone or something they are not.

Rubenstein warns that there is software that allows a phone to appear with the 573 area code when it is not in the area. However, even with the fear of a security breach, there is no avoiding using technology.

“You have to use this technology in today’s world,” Rubenstein said. “Would anyone feel like they could be efficient and not have an email account? So, in the context of each of these tools comes responsibility.”

This responsibility can be accomplished by being more selective in which tools to decide to use, she said. Rubenstein recommends to read the Terms of Service for each device or look up a simplified version of it. This helps the user understand their device and where their information is going.

With so much data about people on the Internet, stalking by social media can happen to almost anyone.

“Being prepared before there is an issue can go a long way, because if you are a victim of stalking there’s a ton of other issues you are dealing with at the time like the emotional impact of it,” Rubenstein said.

One way Rubenstein protects her accounts is by using Two-Factor Authentication. This security system forces users to provide two forms of identification. One is by typing in the user’s password, and the other is a code that is sent to the user’s phone. The code is then also required for entering the account. This will make it less likely that the user’s information is taken.

“If you think someone already has your information, and if there is any evidence of it online that is making you think that, screenshot it,” Rubenstein said, “It’s not that we can’t call Facebook and get that content, but it will add two weeks to the process.”

Along with protecting the device and taking screenshots, there are many other ways to get help for stalking.

RSVP Center graduate assistant Tim Maness recommends using national and state-level resources for stalking.

"They involve safety planning, how to log incidents of it and how to seek out local resources,” Maness said.

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 7.5 million people are stalked in one year in the US. However, for a lot of people, online stalking does not seem like a serious concern.

“When we joke about stalking someone on Facebook, we make light of it,” Rubenstein said, “I think we really need to look at our language and how we’re normalizing it, and understand that legitimate stalking where people are being made uncomfortable and put into fear by other people does happen quite often.”

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